Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Dates Shakes Everywhere

Date Shakes are very popular in Yuma. Why, you ask? Because Yuma is the home of many date farms or Date Gardens, as they are called.
Date Garden
We visited three and became experts on date shakes if not growing dates. Two of the date gardens we visited were very commercial in nature and mostly featured shops where you could buy their products:

Martha's Garden
The shop at Martha's Garden was very beautiful and they did offer tours - it was necessary to book the tour in advance, which we did, then I managed to be sick on the date we were scheduled to go. So we missed it. If you are interested I would recommend you book this tour as it looked very complete and this appeared to be a very well run operation.

Then one day we were out exploring the area around Yuma and happened upon this place:
Not very fancy looking but it was run by a woman who was very knowledgeable about date farming and gave us a complete description of the process. A very labour intensive business.

It takes 7 to 10 years after planting for date palms to yield a crop of dates suitable for commercial harvest. Mature date palms can produce 175–260 lb of dates per harvest season, although they do not all ripen at the same time so several harvests are required. In order to get fruit of marketable quality, the bunches of dates must be thinned and bagged or covered before ripening so that the remaining fruits grow larger and are protected from weather and pests such as birds. 

It is necessary to grow both male and female date palms and all pollination is done manually.
Female Date Palm
The yellow frond-like flowers you see at the base of the palm fronds are actually date flower buds. Workers first must remove two buds in every three to allow space for the fruit to grow. Then they use an eye-dropper type instrument to pollinate the remaining buds. This all happens in the spring. As the dates start to form in the summer months they are covered with muslin bags to protect them from the birds. In the fall the ripened dates are harvested by hand by people standing on a cherry-picker. The dates are then delivered to an area where they are, sorted, graded, packed, etc.

If you are interested in learning more about date farming check out this website.

Date Shakes are great but are more like date ice cream than a shake. If you are interested in trying one here is the recipe:

Date Shake

1/2 cup (approximately 4 to 5 dates) pitted Medjool dates, coarsely chopped*
1/2 cup cold milk
1 cup good-quality vanilla ice cream
Whipped Cream

In a blender, process the dates and 1/4 cup milk at high speed until smooth. Add remaining 1/4 cup milk, vanilla ice cream, and nutmeg; blending at low speed until well mixed. The goal is to achieve a paste-like texture with minimal chunks.

Pour into a tall, chilled glass, top with whipped cream, and serve immediately. It will be very thick and you will need to serve it with a spoon.

Or, if you like to bake, here is a recipe for the best date squares you will ever taste. Incidentally they are called date squares in Central and Eastern Canada and matrimonial squares in Western Canada. I don't know why. I have not seen them for sale or served anywhere we visited in the USA.

Date Squares (Matrimonial Cake)

1 1/2 cups flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups oatmeal (Old fashioned not instant)
1 cup softened butter
1 lb pitted dates
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 t. grated lemon peel
1/2 cup white sugar

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, brown sugar and oatmeal. Add butter and mix until crumbled together. Put one half of this mixture in a buttered 9' x 9' pan. Pat down and into the corners.
Prepare the filling by combining the remaining ingredients in a pot over low heat. Cook and stir until very smooth. Spread over the oatmeal mixture in the pan. Top with the remaining oatmeal mixture and spread to cover the date mixture.
Bake in a preheated 350F oven 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown.
Cool well before cutting in squares.


To enlarge the pictures simply left click on them
You can follow more of our adventures on our facebook page
To contact me click here 
We enjoy and appreciate your comments. To comment simply click on the comments link below.


  1. I was so surprised when I learned that date palms were pollinated manually.

    Nothing better than fresh, soft dates!

  2. This sounds so good! I can't wait to try it. Thanks for sharing.


Hi There. Thanks for visiting. I enjoy and appreciate your comments.